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Pole to Pole

Day 103: Dodoma to Kigoma

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleIt is a breathtaking revelation of scale and space, as if I had opened a door onto the centre of Africa.

'When I grow up I shall go there . . . '

Well, I've had my cosmic moment and now the reality must be faced. The Railway Hotel, Kigoma, is not the heart of darkness. It is more like a cross between a pub in Earl's Court and a minor Hilton. Encamped on the unmown lawns are two dozen Australian and New Zealand overlanders drinking beer. A Japanese film crew are at work in the lake and another harassed European rushes past us clutching a sheaf of papers.

After hours of patient negotiation we are all found rooms. They are arranged in unglamorous functional blocks which do no justice at all to the splendour of the location. Mine has a small bed with a frame for a mosquito net, but no net. A concrete floor extends into a washing area with a shower and basin, but no hot water. My lavatory is of the High Type, but the cistern overflows gently and persistently. As if to further mock my dreams of solitariness and isolation, all I can hear as I unpack is a radio crackling out the last seconds of commentary from the Rugby Union World Cup followed by a roar from the darkness outside as Australia defeats New Zealand.

Later I settle down with Conrad on my narrow bed, and read myself to sleep to the sound of 'the howling sorrow of savages' and the gentle lapping of an overflowing lavatory cistern.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 103
  • Country/sea: Tanzania
  • Place: Kigoma
  • Book page no: 232

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